Bird's Foot Trefoil - Lotus corniculatus Bird's Foot Trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Herb: Bird's Foot Trefoil

Latin name: Lotus corniculatus

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Bird's Foot Trefoil:

Carminative, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, restorative, vermifuge. The flowers are antispasmodic, cardiotonic and sedative. The root is carminative, febrifuge, restorative and tonic. The plant is used externally as a local anti-inflammatory compress in all cases of skin inflammation.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Pastures and sunny banks of streams, especially on calcareous soils.

Edible parts of Bird's Foot Trefoil:

The young seedpods are "nibbled". Caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

An orange-yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. A useful green manure plant, fixing atmospheric nitrogen. It is difficult to see this plant as a useful green manure, it is fairly slow growing with us and does not produce much bulk.

Propagation of Bird's Foot Trefoil:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in the spring or autumn in situ. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 15C. If seed is in short supply, it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring or early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Pastures and sunny banks of streams, especially on calcareous soils.

Known hazards of Lotus corniculatus:

All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides(hydrogen cyanide). In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. This species is polymorphic for cyanogenic glycosides. The flowers of some forms of the plant contain traces of prussic acid and so the plants can become mildly toxic when flowering. They are completely innocuous when dried.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.